At the time of this writing, Chicago Bears first-round pick Roquan Smith remains unsigned. And with the team's veterans reporting for training camp today, if Smith is not in Bourbonnais by the close of business, he'll officially be a holdout.
Don't panic, Bears fans. This is an unusual year for GM Ryan Pace and the rest of the front office when it comes to negotiating with the team's first-round pick. Chicago is beginning training camp a week earlier than most clubs because of the Hall of Fame game, which means Pace is at a disadvantage. In reality, Smith has to hold out for several days -- if not more than a week -- before a red flag needs to go up.
Assuming the business side of the game gets resolved, Smith will bring a beastly presence to the second level of Chicago's defense. In fact, he's expected to be so productive that Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer recently pegged him as the likely winner of the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year award:
And if I had to pick a Defensive Rookie of the Year right now—and this would break Ohio State’s two-year stranglehold on the award (Sorry, Denzel Ward)—it would be Smith, whom the Bears took with the eigth overall pick. We’ve seen players at that spot (San Francisco’s Patrick Willis, New England’s Jerod Mayo and Carolina’s Luke Kuechly) assimilate to the pro game quickly in the recent past, and win the award. And I think the Georgia phenom is on that level.
The last Bears linebacker to win Defensive Rookie of the Year was Brian Urlacher, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
If Smith has anything close to the impact Urlacher had during his career in Chicago, he'll go down as one of Pace's greatest decisions as the team's general manager.
Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace has a good eye for talent in the later rounds of the NFL Draft. He nailed picks like Eddie Jackson (fourth round), Jordan Howard (fifth round) and Adrian Amos (fifth round) over the years, and the hope is that one of his Day 3 picks in 2020 will continue that trend.
One player who has a chance to exceed his draft slot is Georgia Southern cornerback, Kindle Vildor, who Pace selected in the fifth round of April's draft. He was recently named the Bears' rookie who could be a surprise gem in 2020.
"We stress confidence when we talk about the corner position," general manager Ryan Pace told reporters. "And [Vildor] definitely has that confidence and that playing demeanor that we look for. A skill set that also translates well to special teams, which is going to be important especially in the early part of his development."
The two-time first-team All-Sun Belt performer will have to beat out a few veterans for reps, but his man-coverage and ball skills should fit favorably in the Bears' defensive scheme.
While most of the post-draft attention has been paid to another Bears rookie cornerback, second-round pick Jaylon Johnson, Vildor has a chance to earn significant playing time as a rookie. Only Kyle Fuller is assured a starting job at this point, and while Vildor faces an uphill battle to unseat Buster Skrine for reps, there's no reason to bet against him. Pace has always been a proponent of competition breeding the best results and if Vildor rises to the occasion, the Bears will waste little time inserting him into the lineup.
Vildor ended his college career with 94 tackles, nine interceptions and 25 passes defended.
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Good news, Madden fans: you can officially continue spending $80 to complain about how the game hasn't been good in years.
According to Darren Rovell, the NFL and EA Sports have agreed to a 5-year extension:
Rovell says his sources have told him that, 'the deal is worth at least $1 billion to the NFL and $500 million to the players. The deal also includes at least $500 million in marketing commitments over the years.'
Congrats to everyone involved! Now more than ever, football fans need some good news. There's no tradition as timeless as throwing controllers through TVs and against walls when your friend runs four verticals with a Y skinny post over and over and over again. Madden exists solely to allow people cover to yell at the TV without the presence of, like, a real reason. What would we do without it?